Vehicles of the 50's
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Although I was around in these days, some of these 1950's model vehicles were obviously only seen in more affluent areas than where I lived.  My memory bank doesn't recall some of these so they may have been very low production models.  It is also sad that not only some models are no longer manufactured -- the companies themselves have unfortunately bit the dust.  Are there any of these that you don't remember?

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1951 Buick LeSabre

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1951 Chrysler K310

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1951 Hudson Hornet

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1951 Studebaker Champion

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1953 Buick Wildcat Convertible

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1954 Dodge FireArrow

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1954 Buick Wildcat II

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1955 Nash Rambler Cross Country Wagon

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1957 Pontiac Star Chief Catalina 2-Door Hardtop

In 1956, Pointiac's treatment of the famous '55-57 Chevy body shell was still encumbered by "Silver Streaks" -- chromium ribs which had swept across Pointiac hoods and trunks for twenty years.  The '57s were only a month away from production when Semon E. Knudsen, the newly appointed general manager, surveyed the prototype.  "Take those things off," he said, and the Silver Streaks were no more.  Emphasizing the car's cleaner, younger image, Pontiac increased the bore and stroke of the standard V-8 to 3.94x3.56 inches -- for a displacement of 347 cubic inches.  With a 10:1 compression, Star Chief models produced 270 bhp at 4,800 rpm and 359 lb-bt at 2,800 rpm.  The 1958 Pontiac would be all-new, and the first "Wide Track" cars would arrive a year later.  But with the Silver Streaks finally rubbed out, the 1957 models were the spiritual progenitors of the fast and youthful Pontiacs known in the late 80's.

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1958 BMW 507 Roadster

The elegant BMW 507 roadster introduced at the 1955 Frankfurt Auto Show was an immediate hit.  Its racy lines were created by stylist Albrecht Goertz, who had previously worked in Raymond Loewy's studio where he helped design the famous Studebaker Starliner coupe.  Beneath the 507's svelte skin was an all-aluminum 3.2 liter V-8 that BMW had introduced a year earlier.  Dual carburetors and a compression ratio of 7.3:1 produced an output of 150 bhp that was transmitted through a 4-speed gearbox to a solid rear axle located by torsion bars.  The cockpit offered leather seats and full instrumentation.  A removable hardtop was available for winter driving.  Through initially planned to sell in the U.S. for about $5,000, high production costs eventually pushed its price to nearly $9,000.  Unfortunately, after just four years of production, the 507 project was cancelled with only 253 models assembled.

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1959 Ford Skyliner Retractable Hardtop

The retractable rigid top was not a new idea having been tried by Peugeot in 1936 and by Chrysler in 1940. However, in 1956, Ford would be the first (and last thru the late 80's) to attempt a mass production retractable.  The mechanical top was a marvel to watch.  Taking only 60 seconds to stow the roof, the system was completely automatic using four lock motors, three drive motors, ten power relays, ten limit switches, and eight circuit breakers plus a neutral switch, activating switch, and a cycle indicator light switch.  The system contained 610 feet of wire.  Despite their complexity, the tops proved to be dependable.  However, 1959 was the last hurrah for the Ford retrabctable.  The 1960 models were smaller and sales did not justify further development of the retractable top.  Its technology was not wasted, however, as it was used in the convertible designs of the Thunderbirds and Lincoln Continentals of the early 60's.

 

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Nov 21, 2009